Patience: The hidden leadership principle

In Dale Carnegie’s book, How to Win Friends and Influence People, there are 30 tried and proven principles to forge stronger relationships and gain the willing cooperation of others. Many who read the book say the majority of the principles are just common sense. The travesty, especially as it relates to dealing with people, is that we all too often do not put common sense into common practice. It is easy to say, “Be a good listener.” However, if you view the person who is talking in a less-than-positive way, this simple idea becomes much more challenging.

In addition to the common sense hurdle, my experience is that many who read the book and start applying the principles expect instant results. Guess what: Just because I know my lines (use the principles), that absolutely does not mean that other people are going to instantly respond in a positive way. In a recent training program, I had a hard core, autocratic supervisor who just started to realize that treating her people with trust and respect was a much better way to get results. However, when she started to listen to her people and praise them for a job well done, their response was: “What is she trying to get out of us? What is she trying to do this time?” She had started to change her negative habits and expected an immediate, positive response. It actually took a few months for her people to realize that she had truly changed and get on board. It took patience and persistence on her part.

Two more real-life stories that strongly highlight the absolute need for patience, especially when you are trying to change the dynamic of a relationship in a positive way:

1) There was a manager who was on the verge of firing one of her long-term employees. The employee already had the proper documentation in his file. He lacked follow through and, on many occasions, turned off customers. In fact, some customers had been lost as a result of his negative approach and others refused to work with him. At the same time, he had a wealth of knowledge about the business that would be hard to replace. Outside of telling him what to do and what not to do, the manager did very little, if any, coaching to correct his behavior. In her mind, he was a hopeless cause.

One of the assignments in our training program for this manager was to seek the willing cooperation of someone that works for you. She chose this “hopeless” individual. Change did not happen in an instant. However, over the course of several weeks and hands-on coaching, this problem ultimately became a shining star. Great coaches know that patience, coaching, and holding people positively accountable leads to results.

2) We do keep a specific emphasis on business results in our training programs, since the majority of our participants are funded by their organizations. At the same time, we make a point that the principles also apply to personal relationships.

We had a hard-nosed sales manager who took this idea to heart. In fact, over the course of a couple of months, he began to speak to his mother, who he had not spoken with in 15 years! He admitted that the first call was not easy. As he continued to reach out, the conversations got more fluid and less forced. If he had stopped at the first discussion, the re-ignition of a long dead relationship would have never happened. Again, patience and persistence and a “never give up” attitude led to a much desired result.

The examples could go on for a long time. The point is that, as a manager, colleague, or family member, don’t expect an immediate positive response if you try to reach out. Instant results may occur once in a great while, but long-term results require long-term commitment and constant, patient follow through. Keep at it!

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